The fragrance of clove-scented pinks wafting through the air on a summer evening is an experience not to be missed, says Adrienne Wild
Feel in the pink with dianthus
Pinks – or dianthus – are not only one of Britain’s favourite plants, but they’re also highly collectable. They produce some of the best long-lasting blooms in the garden, which are prized for their deliciously spicy, clovelike fragrance.
The pretty, nectar-rich flowers have all the charms of a carnation without its fussy demands. They come in an attractive range of solid and bi-colours, as well as fringed or deeply serrated edges that look as if the petals have been trimmed with ‘pinking’ shears.
The predominant colour is, of course, pink or pale magenta, but white is also common. You’ll also find yellow and mahogany-red varieties. Choose from five-petal singles, just 1.5cm across, to petalpacked doubles that definitely bring the wow factor to your garden.
The blooms are often marked with one or more colours, sometimes as concentric rings and with intricate radial patterns.
A Potted History…
In the distant past, pinks gave only one short-lived burst of flowers in June. However, just after the First World War, Montague Allwood hybridised his pinks with the perpetual carnation at his nursery in Sussex, creating Dianthus x allwoodii. The progeny of this cross start flowering in June and continue giving flushes of flowers throughout the summer, until the frosts come.
There are now hundreds of modern, long-flowering varieties, many of which are available from the Allwoods nursery (allwoods.net). ‘Doris,’ a salmon-pink variety with semi-double blooms, which was bred in 1945, is perhaps the most famous of all.
Other stand-out varieties are ‘Gran’s Favourite,’ which is white with raspberry edges, and ‘Widecombe Fair,’ a pale apricot with pink splashes and an amazing perfume.
Traditional favourites include the highly scented, loosely ragged white Mrs Sinkins, which has been a feature in traditional cottage gardens since it was introduced in 1868. Although seen as the classic English pink, it is also universally recognised as a flawed plant, due to it being a bit floppy and lopsided.
These days, gardeners’ interest in Mrs Sinkins has waned in favour of modern varieties like the resilient Haytor White, which has a compact bushy habit.
Dianthus are a popular choice for cottagegarden borders